South Africa: Six Percent of Woolworths' Staff Infected
October 1, 2004
Approximately 6 percent of food and clothing retailer Woolworths' 13,500 employees in South Africa are HIV-positive, company medical consultant Dr. Tony Davidson told a seminar on HIV/AIDS and business hosted by Metropolitan AIDS Solutions. And according to the most recent actuarial assessments, HIV prevalence among Woolworths' workers is expected to peak in 2007 at 10.9 percent, said Davidson,Adapted from:
Davidson told conference attendees that HIV/AIDS' annual cost to the company, headquartered in Western Cape, was running at R12.6 million (US$1.95 million) and would increase to R23.8 million (US$3.68 million) by 2007. However, HIV/AIDS is not expected to significantly impact Woolworths' market, which is mainly in the upper-income bracket, Davidson said. That is because households with higher income levels are expected to have lower HIV prevalence rates than poor households.
Woolworths' has implemented an HIV/AIDS program that includes free medicines for its full-time workers, a decision that was made "because it was the right thing to do," not because it was cost effective, said Davidson. "The benefits of antiretroviral therapy are apparent for the next five years, but then we move into a scenario that is at best cost-neutral [when the number of people on treatment increase]," he said. In the past year, eight Woolworths' employees have died of AIDS-related illnesses. Davidson said absenteeism at the company had remained constant for the past three years.
09.29.04; Tamar Kahn